This small town of just over 2,000 positioned on the Stikine River is visited by a handful of small ships each year. A stop here is not only a step into a postcard setting, it's also a chance to experience the region's history. The charming spot is one of southeast Alaska's oldest settlements — it served as a start point for many gold prospectors, and was once under Russian, then English rule. The local Tlingit population has left an indelible mark with a variety of totems and petroglyphs that date back centuries.
What We Love
Authentic Alaskan: Unlike other ports of call that seem to be an endless string of diamond and jewelry shops, Wrangell has a hearty, rugged atmosphere. And the fishing town is awash with the tongue-in-cheek wit that permeates Alaska. Our favorite example is a salon called "I’ll Cut You.”
Chief Shakes Island and Tribal House: A short walk along the horseshoe-shaped harbor brings you to Chief Shakes Island, a grassy spit perched seemingly in the middle of the inlet. Connected by a long wooden bridge, it's home to the recently restored Chief Shakes Tribal House, the symbol of the native Tlingit peoples in Wrangell. The cultural attraction showcases local artwork, artifacts, and the area's famous totem poles.
Best Known For
Petroglyph Beach State Historic Park: Set just shy of a mile out of town, Petroglyph Beach State Historic Park encompasses an enormous collection of ancient Native American petroglyphs. Dating back approximately 8,000 years, these early drawings are found on boulders that lie near the shoreline. While some cruise lines offer excursions here, it's an easy 20-minute walk from the pier.
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Who It's Best For
Those Looking for Real Northern Exposure: Wrangell loves its visitors. However, unlike its neighboring ports, the town isn't a tourist one. It's very much an intimate working enclave. This is an authentic slice of small-town Alaskan living.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
It’s Small: Aside from the aforementioned attractions, the real draw here is nature and the quiet charm of the town itself. Some may feel they need more excitement.
Aaron Saunders is a Calgary-based contributor to ShermansCruise.com.